Why do Chickens Eat Sand? Interesting Facts to Know

Keeping chickens at home can be an amazing way of not enjoying delicious organic eggs but also easily bring a little bit of nature into your backyard. Chickens are relatively simple creatures that require little attention; by providing them with secure, warm housing and a well-balanced diet, you will be well on your way to keeping them healthy, happy, and in prime egg-laying condition.

Occasionally, you will see your chickens feeding on sand- usually a type of grit. You might get questions as to why chickens eat sands.

You should know that when the food gets into the gizzard, the sands grind against it to “chew” it and break it down. So, your chicken is always in desperate need of sand, and they know what they are doing.

However, sand causes impaction and is most common among chicks, although some chicken owners have reported that it has also occurred in adult chickens. The bottom line is: your chicken might experience a painful death due to impaction caused by sands.

My Chickens Are Eating Sand – Is it Normal?

Yes! It is normal. When it comes to birds, for instance, geese, turkeys, and other poultry feed differently. However, the basics are all the same. Your chicken will mostly feed on grasses like buckwheat, clover, and Kentucky bluegrass.

Also, they feed on various kinds of broad-leaved weeds and the growing parts of a plant and the seeds. Sometimes, you will also see your chickens eating insects, earthworms, and other slugs.

But don’t get surprised when you see your chickens eating sands. Really? Yeah- your chicken needs sand in their gizzards to help in the grinding of consumed foodstuff.

How Much Sand Do Chickens Eat?

The answer is dependent on the diet of your chickens. For example, commercial feed such as pellets and crumbles are meant to maintain their diet.

Such feeds are already finely grounded; hence your chicken doesn’t need sand to help indigestion. However, if your poultry is fed scratch, whole grains, or has access to foraging for all or portions of their diet, they must be given a considerable amount of sand to help them digest the larger food particles.

If your chickens have little space to forage, you should just feed them with a considerable amount of sand to aid in digestion. Also, you don’t have to worry about how much sand your chickens should consume since they know what is best for them.

The sand size must be appropriate for the age of your chickens to get the greatest digest outcomes. If they’re too big, their gizzards won’t be able to handle the grit. If the grit is too small, it will simply pass through the digestive system without accomplishing its purpose.

The usual sand size is for mature chickens, while the smaller size is for the chicks.

When the chickens reach the age of two months, they can begin to eat the smaller size. When they get bigger, you can switch to adult size. Also, note that due to their big gizzard, turkeys require huge sand particles.

Do All Chickens Eat Sand?

Yes! All chickens eat sand. Interestingly, you belong to the same class as your chickens- omnivore. So, your chicken will eat anything they get their beaks on. For example, a chicken feeds on a cornucopia of protein and vitamin-rich feeds like seeds, vegetables, grubs, and insects.

Fairly indiscriminate, your chickens might sample such yard fare as toad, sinks, or snakes before deciding if it is to their taste.

So, don’t get worried when you find the same chicken comfortably feeding on sands. Chickens do eat sand, but not as a source of nutrition. Instead, they eat sands to digest and pulverize their food.

Do Chickens Need Sand?

Remember, your chickens don’t have teeth. So, they swallow unbroken feedstuff instead of breaking it into small pieces. Sand is a form of grit for your chicken. However, don’t mistake it for being a source of nutrition.

Sand helps in digestion and grinding up of the taken feedstuff.

Chicken being omnivores feed on various types of foods, such as grass, insects, and grains. Even without teeth, chickens have got one of the most effective digestion systems in the animal kingdom and is aided by grit-sand!

When food is ingested, the chicken’s tongue pushes the feed to the rear of its mouth, where it is swallowed. The feed is then moved to a storage facility known as a “crop,” which allows birds to devour a large amount of feed at once. Following that, the meal goes slowly to the gizzard, where digestive juices mix with the intact foodstuff, and the food is broken down.

The gizzard is a muscular section of the stomach that grinds the intact food for the chicken to obtain important nutrients into its body.

The sand in the chicken’s gizzard acts as “teeth,” grinding up the food before entering the digestive tract. However, the human digestive system works in the reverse direction. We ground food with our teeth first, then ingest it into our stomach for digestion.

Grit for Chickens – Sand Alternatives

Most chicken owners are always advised that their chicken needs sands for their diet. However, not many poultry farmers know why. Understanding why your chicken requires sand will help you choose whether or not you should provide it, and the texture and type of sands are preferable.

In essence, sand is required in the diet of chickens and chicks in order for them to digest their meal. Chickens are unable to chew their food before ingesting it as they lack teeth. Instead, they break up food by pecking at it, then swallow it whole.

The ingested food is then stored in an area known as a crop. It allows birds to consume a large amount of food during the day and then digest it overnight.

Wrap Up

Hopefully, the information in this post has answered your question as to why chickens eat sand. Sand aids in the breakdown of food in hens’ gizzards, ensuring that their digestive systems work smoothly.

Therefore, please consider allowing your chickens to feed on a considerable amount of sand. By this, your chickens will remain happy and healthy!

avatar James
Hey, I'm James, a hardworking homesteader for more than 30 years. I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes from tending my flock. I've raised chickens and ducks for eggs and meat for many years. I also have experience with other poultry too. Learn more

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